Every day in Utah, three young adults are treated for attempting suicide, according to the Utah Department of Health’s Violence & Injury Prevention Program.
Other statistics from the Utah Department of Health’s Violence & Injury Prevention include that suicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults aged 18-24 years old. Utah had the 11th highest young adult suicide rate in the U.S. for the years 1999-2010.
Wendy Worthington, a senior communication major from Ivins and a disc jockey on Dixie State University’s radio, 91.3 The Storm, said she will have a panel of local professionals on her show “1 Voice” on April 2 from 3-4 p.m. to discuss suicide in St. George.
“1 Voice” focuses on women’s issues in the community as well as social issues and what’s happening on campus when it’s appropriate. This particular show was inspired as the only way Worthington knew how to help raise awareness for a friend who recently lost a 12-year-old daughter to suicide.
The panel includes Breanne Hukill, David Heaton and Lynn Bjorkman. Hukill is an associate clinical mental health counselor at Southwest Behavioral Health Center. Heaton is a public information officer for Southwest Utah Public Health Department. Bjorkman is a community liaison for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the head of the local chapter of HOPE Task Force.
Worthington wanted to gather a group of professionals who would be able to thoroughly educate and raise awareness about suicide.
“Lynn and Bree both treat people with mental illness, and I wanted to talk to professionals who really know what brings people to that point and how to help them,” Worthington said. “David from Southwest Health Department brings to the table the firsthand knowledge of how this is affecting the community.”
A new chapter of the HOPE Task Force, of which both Heaton and Hukill are members, was recently created in the community by Bjorkman.
“Because of my work in National Alliance for Mental Illness, I have had very strong feelings to try to help improve the system that we have in our country to help people with mental illness,” Bjorkman said. “That’s why I’m involved in HOPE Task Force. Suicide is a very real manifestation of mental illness in many cases.”
David Hudnall, the associate superintendent of the Provo City School District, created the HOPE Task Force in Provo in 1997. According to a Feb. 24 Deseret News article by Benjamin Wood, the HOPE Task Force is “a comprehensive partnership between educators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals and community organizations geared toward getting students the help they need.”
Another way to help students get the help they need is by working on destigmatizing the word.
“One thing about suicide is that it’s a dirty word and people don’t like to talk about it, and to me this is just an opportunity to start a conversation,” Worthington said. “My hope is from here it escalates and continues to be something that people talk about. If we’re not talking about it, we’re not helping people who need help.”
This particular show of “1 Voice” won’t be the usual half-hour, but rather an hour, or as long as it takes to provide the necessary information.
“I want to talk about risk factors for suicidal ideations, recognizing those warning signs, how people should be dealing with people who are threatening to commit suicide, and resources that are available,” Worthington said. “That’s why it’s going to take a long time. This isn’t a topic that gets neatly wrapped up in a half-hour because all of the information needs to be there.”
Worthington said she could not understand how people could inflict pain on those who love them by committing suicide.
“And then I went through it and realized how easy it is for it to make sense,” Worthington said. “We need to stop thinking that it’s a selfish act and realize that this is a very real problem touching so many people. We need to realize that an attempt of suicide or threat of suicide needs to be taken extremely seriously.”
If you or someone you know is suicidal, there is help and there is hope. Resources include calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or the State-Wide University Neuropsychiatric Institute CrisisLine at 801-587-3000, and going to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center or Preventing Suicide.
On campus, the Health and Wellness Center staff will schedule an appointment with a student who’s having a suicide crisis the day they come in.
“A cry for help is still a cry for help, and people only cry out for help so many times before they stop crying out and just do it,” Worthington said.